Switching your child's school midyear

Six tips for deciding to pull your child out before the school year's over.

By GreatSchools Staff

Should I stay or should I go?

Deciding to switch your child’s school in the middle of the year is rarely an easy choice. Even if a child is having a terrible time, there's a fear that making a move to a new school could cause even more trauma. Indeed, several respected studies – like this one– cite the fact that for some children moving schools midyear leads to social and academic problems.

However, careful analysis suggests that parents who move their kids for educational reasons experience more positive results than parents who move their children because of life changes like divorce or job loss. Although nerve-wracking, a midyear move can provide an immediate remedy to a bad social or academic situation. "Removing a child from an educational situation that may be problematic is challenging, but may not be as difficult as parents imagine," says Jodie Slothower of Normal, Illinois who twice pulled out her child midyear, the first time switching him to another school; the second time, homeschooling him. "In our case, we have always been relieved and our lives suddenly became much happier."

But before you turn your child’s world upside down, use these six steps to help you decide:

 

Move classrooms, not schools

Before making a leap to another school, talk with the teacher and principal about other options available. If the problem isn't the school itself but a particular teacher or class of kids, explore the possibility of moving to another classroom.

After eliminating every other option with the teacher and principal, Linda Byers Swindling of Carrollton, Texas, moved her third-grade child in the last two months of the school year into another class at the same school. "It was the right thing to do for our child," says Byers Swindling. "It was a night-and-day difference. The new teacher made her feel warm and included and good about her abilities.”

Seeing is believing

If your child is chronically complaining of troubles at school, one of the best ways to get a firm understanding of what's going on is by sitting in the classroom, and spending time at the school, yourself.

"Observing the classroom situation to see if the problems that the student is having are real or not," says Jodie Slothower, proved "extremely helpful" enough so that when she switched her child, she was sure about her decision.

Weigh the good and the bad

Make sure you can answer, in detail, what your child will lose, and gain, by switching schools. Another essential question to answer: "Will my child withstand long-term damage by staying at the school through the end of the year?" If the pros outweigh the cons, or vice versa, your decision should be clear.

Bring it on home

Many parents opt for online learning or homeschooling to see their child through the end of the school year. This is an especially good option if there are only a few months, or even weeks, remaining in the academic year. Look at GreatSchools for more information on homeschooling or an online school

Make sure it's an upgrade

Beware of making a bad situation worse by trading in one school for another that has similar problems. Karen Port, of St. Louis, MO, whose daughter was being mercilessly bullied, "did a lot of homework," before finding just the right school for a midyear move. "Pulling her out was the best decision that we could have made for her," says Port. "She is so happy at her new school . . . she has friends, support, great teachers and an environment that is such a gift to our family."

Before moving, talk with as many parents as possible about the new school. Then speak with a prospective school's principal to get a clear sense of the school’s culture. Explain why you're leaving the other school and exactly what you're looking for. Ask if your child can attend for at least a day before committing.

Get on the same page with your child

Especially for older children, sharing the decision-making process can lead to better outcomes. While the decision to change a child's school is ultimately the parent's, talk with your child in the most age-appropriate way about why you're changing her school.

Some children may express unhappiness about being in a particular school, but abject misery at the idea of going somewhere new. If that's the case, but you are certain a move is the best for your child, clearly explain your reasons and express confidence that the move will be beneficial for her.